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realized; and I had beheld the poet of unrivalled genius, the sympathetic friend, and the delightful companion, for the last time!"
Cowper remained in the same most distressing state, from the time of Mr. Hayley's departure, which was in the spring of 1794, till the summer of 1795. During the whole of this time he was most affectionately watched over by his amiable cousin: she procured for him the best medical advice, and employed every means that promised the slighest chance of proving beneficial. All these, however, were ineffectual to lighten that ponderous burden which incessantly pressed upon and weighed down his spirits. He had now been eighteen months in this deplorable state, and, instead of becoming better, if any alteration had taken place at all, it was evidently for the worse. Lady Hesketh's health was beginning to fail, owing to the intense anxiety of mind she had experienced for so long a period; and it became at length desirable to try what effect a change of air and of scene would have upon him. Almost all his friends recommended this measure, which was no sooner determined upon, than his highly esteemed relative of Norfolk, the Reverend J. Johnson, who had been several weeks at Weston, assisting Lady Hesketh, voluntarily and generously undertook the charge of both these suffering but interesting individuals. Their removal from Weston to North Tuddenham, in Norfolk, took place under the immediate guidance of Mr. Johnson, on the 28th July, 1795. They performed their journey in Tsafety and ease in three days. Here they were accommodated with a commodious parsonage-house, by the kindness of the Rev. Leonard Shelford, with whom Mr. Johnson had previously made arrangements for their reception, fearing lest the activity and bustle that occasionally prevailed in the vicinity of his own house, situated in the market-place at East Dereham, should harass and perplex the tender mind of Cowper.
They continued in their new residence only a very short time. In the following August Mr. Johnson conducted them to Mundesley, a village on the Norfolk coast, hoping that a situation by the sea-side might prove amusing to Cowper, and become ultimately the means of reviving his spirits. Here they remained till the following October, without appearing to derive any benefit whatever. While in this situation Cowper, who had long discontinued all correspondence with his friends, ventured to write the following letter to the Reverend Mr. Buchanan, which, while it shows the melancholy depression under which he still laboured, proves that he was not without some occasional intermissions of pleasure:—" I will forget for a moment that, to whomsoever I may address myself, a letter from me can no otherwise be welcome than as a curiosity. To you, Sir, I address this, urged to it by extreme penury of employment, and the desire I feel to learn something of what is doing, and has been done, at Weston (my beloved Weston) since I left it.
"The coldness of these blasts, even in the hottest days, has been such, that, added to the irritation of the salt spray, with which they are always charged, they have occasioned me an inflammation in the eyelids, which threatened, a few days since, to confine me entirely; but by absenting myself as much as possible from the beach, and guarding my face with an umbrella, that inconvenience is in some degree abated. My chamber commands a very near view of the ocean, and the ships, at high water, approach the coast so closely, that a man, furnished with better eyes than mine, might I doubt not discern the sailors from the window. No situation, at least when the weather is clear, can be more pleasant; which you will easily credit, when I add, that it imparts something a little resembling pleasure, even to me. Gratify me with news of Weston! If Mr. Gregor, and your neighbours the Courtenays, are there, mention me to them in such terms as you see good. Tell me, if my poor birds are living 1 I never see the herbs I used to give them, without a recollection of them, an<! sometimes am ready to gather them, forgetting that I am not at home."
In the beginning of October, 1795, Mr. Johnson took the two interesting invalids to his own residence at Dereham, where they remained about a month, when they removed to Dunham Lodge, which was then unoccupied, and was pleasantly situated in a park, a few miles from Swaffham, and which from that time became their settled residence. Here they were constantly attended by two of the most interesting females that could possibly have been selected, Miss Johnson and Miss Perowne. The latter took so lively an interest in Cowper's welfare, and exerted so much ingenuity, in attempting to produce some alleviation of his sufferings, that he ever afterwards honoured her with his peculiar regard, and preferred her attendance to that of every other individual by whom he was surrounded; and she continued her kind attention to him to the close of his life. The providence of God (as Mr. Hayley justly remarks) was strikingly displayed towards Cowper, in supplying him with attendants, during the whole of his life, peculiarly suited to the exigencies of mental dejection."
Cowper's melancholy depression still remained unalleviated. In June, 1796, however, an incident occurred, which for a time, though it removed not his dejection, revived the spirits of his friends, and cheered them with the hope of his ultimate recovery. Mr. Johnson invariably procured copies of all such new publications as were likely to interest the mind of Cowper; and as Cowper had discontinued the use of his pen, and manifested considerable disinclination to read himself, Mr. Johnson kindly undertook to read these publications to his relative whenever suitable opportunities offered. About this time Mr. Wakefield published his edition of Pope's Homer. It occurred to Mr. Johnson, who always readily embraced the slightest incident that seemed likely to ■ diminish the anguish of his afflicted relative, that this work might probably excite the poet's attention sufficiently to rouse him, in some degree, from his dejection. He immediately, therefore, procured a copy, and ingeniously placed it in a conspicuous part of a large unfrequented room, through which he knew Cowper would have to pass, in his way from Mrs. Unwin's apartments, and in which, he was aware, it was Cowper's practice, daily, to take some turns, observing previously to his afflicted relative, that the work contained some occasional comparison of Pope with Cowper. The plan succeeded far beyond Mr. Johnson's expectation: to his agreeable surprise, he discovered, the next day, that Cowper had not only found the passages to which he had adverted, but had corrected his translation at the suggestion of some of them. Perceiving that the poet's attention was arrested, it was vigilantly cherished by the utmost efforts of Mr. Johnson; and from that time Cowper regularly engaged in a revisal of his own version, and for some weeks produced almost sixty new lines a-day. He continued this occupation so steadily, and with so much deliberation, that all his friends began to rejoice, at the prospect of his almost immediate recovery. Their hopes, however, were of short duration. In a few weeks he again relapsed into the same state of hopeless depression. In the ensuing autumn, Mr. Johnson again made trial of a change of air, and of scene, and removed the family to the delightful village of Mundesley. No apparent benefit, however, resulted from this change, and towards the close of October, 1796, it was thought desirable to remove the family to Mr. Johnson's house at Dereham, and
to remain there during the winter, as the Lodge was at too great a distance from Mr. Johnson's churches.
In the following December it became evident that Mrs. Unwin's life was rapidly drawing to a close; she had been gradually sinking for a considerable time; and on the seventeenth day of this month, in the 73d year of her age, she peacefully, and without a groan, or a sigh, resigned her happy spirit into the hands of God. Her life had been eminently distinguished by the most fervent and unaffected piety, which she had displayed in circumstances the most trying and afflicting, and her end was peace. The day before she expired, Cowper, as he had long been accustomed to do at regular periods, spent a short time with his afflicted and longtried friend; and though to his inmates he appeared so absorbed in his own mental anguish, as to take little, if any notice of her condition, it was evident afterwards that he clearly perceived how fast she was sinking; for, as a faithful servant of himself and his afflicted friend, was opening the window of his chamber the following morning, he addressed her in a tone the most plaintive and affecting, " Sally, is there life above stairs!" a convincing proof that the acuteness of his own anguish had not prevented him from bestowing great attention to the sufferings of his aged friend. He saw her, for the last time, about an hour before she expired; and, notwithstanding the intensity of his own distress, he was much affected, though he clearly perceived that she enjoyed the utmost tranquillity. He saw the corpse once after her decease; and after looking at it attentively for a short time, he suddenly withdrew, under the influence of the strongest emotions. She was buried in Dereham church, on the 23d December, 1796, and a marble tablet was raised to her memory, with the following inscription:
"IN MEMORY OF
WIDOW OF THE REV. MORLEY UNWIN,
MOTHER OF THE REV. WILLIAM CAWTHORN
BORN AT ELY, 1724.
BURIED IN THIS CHURCH, 1796.
Trusting' in God with all lier heart and mind,
This woman proved magnanimously kind,
Endured affliction's desolating hail,
And watched a poet through misfortune's vale.
Her spotless dust, angelic guards defend!
It is the dust of Unvvin, Cowper's friend!
That single title in itself is fame,
For all who read his verse revere her name."
Had Cowper been in the enjoyment of health, and had his mind been entirely free from his gloomy forebodings, at the time of Mrs. Unwin's decease, so tender and lively were his feelings, that it would undoubtedly have proved to him one of the severest shocks he had ever experienced. Sueh, however, was the influence of his melancholy depression, that he never afterivards adverted to the event, even in the most distant way, nor did he even make the slightest inquiries respecting her funeral. A more striking proof of the intense anguish of his own sufferings cannot possibly be given. Dreadful, indeed, must have been those feelings that could have produced an insensibility so great in his tender mind, for the loss of such a friend!
In the summer of 1707, Cowper's health appeared in some measure to improve, and in the following September, at the earnest entreaty of his kinsman, he again resumed the revisal of his Homer; and, notwithstanding the severity of his mental anguish, he persevered in it, with some occasional interruption, till the eighth of May, 1799, on which day he completed the work. It was evidently owing to the rare talents exerted by Mr. Johnson on the mind of Cowper, that he was induced to bring this great work to a successful close. And it would have been exceedingly difficult, if not utterly impossible, to have found an individual who could, with so much tenderness, have exerted an influence so beneficial over the distressed mind of the poet. He was, however, indefatigable in his efforts to divert bis mind from the melancholy depression which spread its pernicious influence over his soul. And, during the whole of the summer of 1798, he endeavoured, by frequent change of scene, sometimes residing for a week or two at Mundesley, and then returning to Dereham, to restore the mind of his revered relative to its proper tone. And though he had not the satisfaction to see his efforts crowned with complete success, yet he was pleased to perceive them prove in some degree, at least, beneficial to the interesting sufferer. In his sketch of Cowper's life, published in the last edition of the poet's works, he " records it